Skip to main content

Full text of "The Gay Genius"

See other formats

94                              THE GAY GENIUS

"Nine hundred dollars."

Wang Anshih sent for her husband and bade the woman go back to
him, telling him to keep the money:

The same thing happened to Szema Kuang, for he, too, had a con-
cubine against his wish. In his younger days he was serving as a
deputy magistrate and his wife had not yet produced a son for him.
The chief magistrate's wife presented him with a concubine, but Szema
Kuang ignored her. Thinking that it was because of her own presence,
his wife one day asked the girl to wait till she was out of the house
and then dress up and go into his study at night. When Szema Kuang
saw the girl appear in his room, he said in surprise to the girl: "How
dare you come here? The Madame is away," and he sent her away.
Both men were more interested in carrying out their policies than in
personal power, and Wang Anshih certainly had no regard for money.
While he was premier, as soon as his salary was received, he turned
it over to his brothers to spend it any way they liked.

Szema Kuang, who towered intellectually and morally above his
generation, fought a clean-cut battle of principles from the beginning
to the end. He and Wang Anshih stood at opposite poles on govern-
ment policy. In the words of a contemporary: "Wang Anshih refused
to be premier unless the new policies were carried out, and Szema
Kuang refused to be vice-privy-councillor unless the new policies were

Not only did Szema Kuang rank with Fan Chungyen as one of the
two most respected prime ministers of Sung dynasty; he was, besides,
author of the monumental comprehensive history of China up to the
Sung period, the Tsechih Tungchien or Mirror of History, in 294
volumes, with thirty volumes of appendix on sources and comparative
material, a work sound in scholarship and masterly in judgment and
style, which became the pole star to which all history writing in China
after him must be orientated. The first draft (chmgpien) was several
times the number of volumes. He used to work at it steadily, filling
ten feet of paper copying notes every day, and his manuscripts were
said to fill two whole rooms. The gigantic work occupied the author
for twenty-five years.

What started the final fight was the issue of the farmers' loans. AfterJ
months of deliberation by the bureau of economic planning, the
"Regulations for Seedling Loans" were promulgated in September
1069. Forty-one high commissioners were sent out to the provinces to
push through the new plan. It soon became apparent that the loans
could not be voluntarily sold to the people as had been intended. The
question for the high commissioners, then, was whether they wanted
to come back and report that their mission had been a failure or to